Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Demystifying the Art of Comradeship

Demystifying the art of comradeship

Wednesday, 06 July 2011 02:00
Zimbabwe Herald
By Josephine Jenje Mudimbu

Some people are not comfortable when add-ressed as "comrade" (Cde) as they feel associated with Zanu-PF, a revolutionary party, war veterans or ex-combatants who fought during the liberation struggle of Zimbabwe.
Everyone is entitled to be called comrade despite one's political affiliation.

I nearly got a hiding when I addressed a long time friend as comrade. What is the meaning of the word, comrade?

The definition of comrade is friend, colleague or ally. The word is derived from the French word, "camarade". It has often become a stock phrase and form of address. Comrade can be used as a title when addressing a person instead of using others like Sir, Madam, Miss, Mrs, Mr, Ms, to name a few. The good about Cde is that it qualifies for both men and women.

There are other professional titles like, Doctor or Professor.

My friend got very angry with me that I had to apologise to avoid further conflict.

"Do not call me comrade again wazvinzwa, (have you heard me). I am a dignified person, a man of my calibre should get a better title".

I asked this frothing friend of mine how I should address him. "Call me Mr or rather use my first name". Mr is an English title which is addressed to men and was derived from the word Master as the equivalent female titles Mrs, Miss and Ms which were derived from Mistress.

That was unbelievable that man of his calibre could be so ignorant and be comfortable with the "colonial masters" title. The test is revealed in the local media where the state media use the word more often while the independent media usually avoids or rarely use it.

According to, comrade is a person who shares one's interest of activities or a fellow member of a group, especially a communist party. A comrade can be socially or politically, a closeness that is found at the etymological heart of the word comrade. The English borrowed the word from Spanish and French who recorded in the 16th century.

The political sense of comrade now associated with communism, has its origins in the late 19th century use of the word by communists and socialists in order to avoid such forms of address as Mister. This usage, which originated during the French revolution, is first recorded in English in 1884.

The snap survey carried out shows some people prefer the word to other titles because of gender balance while some frown in disapproval. I caught up with a woman who said she is excited to be called comrade.

"Address me as comrade l like the title, as a feminist because I will share the same title with my male counterparts. In comparison with other titles it reveals who exactly you are and people start pointing fingers saying ‘hee haana kuroorwa', (she is not married), so what if l am not a Mrs."

"Some titles were designed to make the womenfolk feel greatly embarrassed or inferior especially at my age people see me as a married person and yet I have never carried that title."

Carrying different titles can divide people. Margaret Dongo, a politician, former freedom fighter and a renowned feminist said the word Cde should be adopted in our system because it is a uniform approach which does not discriminate anyone in terms of sex, colour or creed.

"This word has brought a lot of controversy in this country more so to the fact when the opposition parties were formed; people began to have different thoughts.

"The meaning as understood from the liberation struggle is people who share the same values, ideology and thinking. During the struggle we called ourselves comrades and we were socialist oriented just like the Chinese.

"This motivated us and kept us in high spirits. I have had a lot of people in this country misinterpret the word to killers. Someone actually told me that he is not a comrade because he didn't kill anyone."

"I am delighted to be addressed as Cde Margaret Dongo or Cde Ticha, my Chimurenga name. In fact all my kids do not call me ‘mum' but Cde Dongo which makes me feel owned by the society at large instead of few individuals.

"People should be proud to be associated with a name that brought the well being of what we are today regardless of the hardships we are going through.

"The liberation struggle brought independence which we have all benefited to the extent of drinking clear beer, being everywhere and even going to bed with the whites," she said.

A Zimbabwean political commentator in his own right, Samuel Takwinya said in Zimbabwe's context the word comrade is synonymous with the struggle for independence particularly those that actually carried the gun or those that chose to die for both the country and majority for the sake of freedom.

"It is an honour to be associated with the noble cause of freeing and leading the people to ‘uhuru', independence."

"The resultant struggle of independence has manifested in two groups of people those that still perpetuate and protect the struggle ideals and those that have been influenced by Neo Colonialists' interest and as has been researched, the word comrade does not have the revolutionary connotation in the English language.

"The refusal or admittance then is not by choice but really shows the ideals of one and it is mostly absurd for a black Zimbabwean to shun away from the usage of such word in the Zimbabwean context," he said.

The leader of MDC-99, Job Sikhala said comrade is a good title with good people especially not with people in Zimbabwe and Zanu-PF as the term has been abused and adulterated by Zanu-PF.

"There is no sane person who will take it lightly given that title unless you belong to the gang of people who call themselves Zanu-PF, the reason being most if not all who share and revel in that name, have common traits and unfortunately the traits are not common to humanity," said Sikhala.

Wonder Guchu, a Zimbabwean journalist now based in Namibia said he does not mind being addressed as Cde Guchu.

"The word ‘comrade' is warm and it makes one feel very much wanted."

"I don't like the word at all it makes me feel as if I am a politician, so would rather avoid it always," said a source who spoke on condition of anonymity. Another journalist, Gibbs Dube said comrade is just friend nothing else.

His sentiment was echoed by Richard Chino-mona who said to be called Comrade is an expression of a loved one, a friend. Food for thought; do we all deserve to be called comrades? If so, the next time you get the title feel honoured, it is not offensive.

Peace Love and Harmony.

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